Retinol: often referred to as the “gold standard” of all anti-aging ingredients. Clinically proven, no doubt it works effectively; if you can tolerate its side effects. Has Retinol been usurped as the queen of anti-aging ingredients by a newcomer? Is it all too good to be true?
Bakuchiol is the extract of the fruit from the Babchi (破故纸) plant, a type of legume native to India and Sri Lanka. It has been used as a traditional remedy for various ailments including knee pain, backache, and psoriasis in many East Asian cultures.
While retinol can be extracted from natural sources, most, if not all used in skincare products today are synthesized instead, making it more potent yet irritating. Unlike Retinol, Bakuchiol can only be derived from natural sources (today) and contains many plant compounds (phytochemicals) which deliver multiple benefits.
These compounds have been clinically shown to deliver antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and perhaps most importantly to us, anti-aging benefits.
Skin Benefits of Bakuchiol
In clinical tests, Bakuchiol has been shown to slow skin aging through the preservation and even increase of collagen in the skin. Collagen is the main protein in our skin structure which acts like a glue that holds everything together. Over time, the ability for our body to produce collagen slows down, and that leads to the visual effects of aging like saggy skin and wrinkles. Increasing or preserving the body’s ability to produce collagen will naturally keep our skin looking young and healthy.
Like Retinol, Bakuchiol also helps to increase skin-cell turnover. This is the natural process where skin cells “die” and are replaced with newer cells periodically. By accelerating this process, newer, brighter skin can reveal itself which also promotes the healing of scars and damaged skin.
Protective & Calming
Bakuchiol’s phytochemical content makes it an extremely potent antioxidant. Antioxidants are key in protecting skin against free-radical damage and other environmental factors which can harm skin. Think about antioxidants as a “shield” to protect your skin from the world, as well as “food” for the skin to repair itself.
Plus, Bakuchiol is anti-inflammatory. This helps to calm irritated or troubled skin and makes it perfect for those with extra sensitive skin.
Bakuchiol is antibacterial and has been shown in clinical tests to be effective in inhibiting the P.acnes bacteria: one of the main culprits for acne. Furthermore, its anti-inflammatory effects help to moderately inhibit the inflammation commonly associated with acne, especially when paired with salicylic acid.
This makes Bakuchiol an effective treatment for mild to moderate acne by itself. It’s also found to be compatible with both salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide when used as treatments for acne.
Bakuchiol vs. Retinol
Side Effects & Tolerance
Retinol is held to such high regard when it comes to anti-aging (and anti-acne) due to the decades of countless studies performed attributing to its efficacy. However, Retinol’s side-effects are also well documented: most commonly being flaking, irritation, and photosensitivity. Today, new forms of Retinoids like Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (HPR) are being developed to both maximize efficacy and minimizing negative side effects. This in order for it to be more tolerable for a wider spectrum of skin types.
Perhaps the biggest draw for Bakuchiol is that multiple studies have proven that it’s non-irritating and non-sensitizing. In a clinical test comparing Bakuchiol and Retinol, there were “more subjective reports of itching and burning” as well as “signiﬁcantly more scaling” in the Retinol group. Which also concluded that Bakuchiol is a more tolerable alternative to Retinol.
This all points to Bakuchiol being tolerable for those who have sensitive skin and who may not be able to tolerate Retinol very well.
Another plus for Bakuchiol is that unlike Retinol, it doesn’t cause photosensitivity (sensitivity to light) and it’s a photostable ingredient. This means that Bakuchiol can be used both in the day and at night without any worries!
After reading all about the positives Bakuchiol has over Retinol will definitely have you asking: “What’s the tradeoff then? It’s probably weaker than Retinol right?”
Well, surpassingly no!
On a molecular level, Bakuchiol has shown to be similar to Retinol on how our skin cells react to the treatment. i.e. they both elicit very similar reactions. Essentially, both increases the skin’s ability to produce collagen to delay skin aging.
Clinically, results have shown that over the course of a 12-week treatment, there are similar improvements in lines, wrinkles, pigmentation, elasticity, and firmness.
The study used 2 similarly formulated creams with 0.5% Retinol and 0.5% Bakuchiol respectively. It concluded after the 12 weeks that “Bakuchiol is comparable with Retinol in its ability to improve photoaging and is better tolerated than Retinol”.
Long story short: Bakuchiol is pretty much as effective at Retinol when it comes to anti-aging!
Other Benefits of Bakuchiol
There are other bodily benefits of Bakuchiol that are currently being studied, and the results have been very promising. Bakuchiol’s healing ability has shown to protect internal organs such as the heart and especially in the liver, where it can inhibit damage caused by disease or alcohol abuse.
Another promising development is Bakuchiol’s anti-cancer ability. Bakuchiol has been shown to prevent the spread of various cancer cells, including stomach, breast, and skin cancer. Furthermore, because of its estrogen-like effects, it reduces the risk of breast cancer and helps prevent osteoporosis (due to estrogen deficiency).
Can I Use Bakuchiol When I’m Pregnant or Breastfeeding?
Unlike Retinol, where use during pregnancy or when breastfeeding is strongly discouraged, Bakuchiol has been shown to be safe for pregnant and breastfeeding moms as it doesn't share similar molecular structures or origins to Retinol. However, do still check with your medical professional before starting any new treatments!